When publicity reps hit “send” before looking up who they submit pitches to
I work with Monroe, Toledo and Detroit-area publicity reps every day on a variety of topics.
Most reps who contact our newspaper are volunteers. Only a few are full-time public information officers or agency owners / reps.
If a contact is pitching a regional event or story idea, and they have questions about deadlines, who to contact, or how to handle promotions, I’ll take the time to answer. Reason: I like those people. I understand what they’re doing. I’ve been involved in non-profit, social and fundraiser events and causes myself. I also have a good idea of what an assignment editor at our newspaper or other area media outlets might be looking for.
The aggravations I have with publicity reps involve out of town contacts who don’t look up the person they are pitching to before they hit “send.”
There is no reason to pitch a story blind in this day and age. It takes just a minute or two to do a Google search on a writer to see what topics she reports on, what she puts in her “about” sections and professional bios, and which topics she has registered with public relations databases as “I do not cover.”
The reason I’m annoyed is that in the past few days, I have received what is possibly a record number of misfired pitches.
Yes, this includes the everyday array of “partnership” officers that are actually requests for sponsored content or third-party commercial links in my copy (Really, now? Please read the “about” section. I’ve made it clear that I won’t do that.)
And while I haven’t seen such chatter this week, about once a month I hear from a national publicity rep who thinks I work in radio or TV instead of in print and digital. I know they didn’t look me up on LinkedIn when that happens.
But this week I’ve seen a flood of pitches on investments, banking rates, national economic grade cards, legislative affairs, … literally anything that could be stretched under the topic of “personal finance” except for the fact that they don’t fit my topic of southeast Michigan families living on a budget.
This annoys me as I have taken the time to explain my target audience and link up a collection of regional economic statistics in my about section.
One email pitch that came to me this week was from someone whose news angle was this week’s release of the Sallie Mae annual “How America Pays for College” report to promote why K-12 parents should save money for college through 529 plans such as one that she reps.
I gave a quick reply that half of Monroe, Mich.,’s public school K-12 students are on the free or reduced price lunch program and that there had been a huge spike in that statistic as compared to before the recession.
In other words, a significant number of people among my target audience can barely take care of “here and now” expenses. Long-term savings will be way off their radar screen.
By the way, I had planned to discuss the Sallie Mae report. Just not on the angle she wanted.